Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Air date: 4/19/1993
Written by Sam Rolfe
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
In what is perhaps the best episode since the pilot, a wanted man from the Gamma Quadrant named Croden (Cliff DeYoung) kills a Miradorn in self defense following a botched theft attempt. Odo throws Croden in a cell and prepares to release him to the authorities of his home world. "Vortex" is the first episode to deeply examine the unknowns of Odo's mysterious origins, and the result is a powerful character episode that successfully gets into the crux of the constable's loneliness and his quest for people like him.
Croden capitalizes on Odo's loneliness by telling him a number of "Changeling tales" that may or may not be part of his web of dissembling lies—hoping to take advantage of the constable's Achilles heel. Cliff DeYoung effectively forces our perception of the situation to remain in stagnant neutrality between Croden and Odo. DeYoung brings a sense of ineptitude to his character's criminal activities that makes his motives seem as sincere as they later turn out to be—but without totally winning our trust in the meantime. What also works, surprisingly enough, is an action subplot involving the dead Miradorn's vengeful twin brother Ah-Kel (Randy Oglesby) chasing after Croden and Odo's Runabout to kill his brother's murderer.
Most of this works because of the extremely high quality of the production. The special effects are outstanding, as Odo and Croden attempt to elude Ah-Kel by traveling through a dangerous, volatile vortex that looks really neat. The conclusion, which uncovers all the reasons behind Croden's lies and deceit—his need to retrieve his hidden daughter from a planet in the vortex—is a touching sentiment.
When all is said and done "Vortex" is an episode that works wonders on many levels. There are interesting suppositions about Odo's origin with engrossing character impacts, a good action plot, terrific production values, interesting performances, and affecting drama. Highly recommended.
Previous episode: The Nagus
Next episode: Battle Lines
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41 comments on this post
Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
But a lot of these guest stars and one-time characters in the first season just wash in my mind.
Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
Following a murder, the suspect, Croden is thrown in a cell and is revealed to be a wanted criminal. Odo must take him back, whilst evading the vengeful brother of the murder victim.
This is the first episode to tackle the issue of Odo's origins, and the narrative is fairly good at keeping is in suspense as to whether Croden (Cliff DeYoung) is merely lying to save his skin or is at least partially telling the truth. One wonders how much the writers of Early Season 3 looked at this episode before scripting it!
As always, Auberjonois is excellent, wrestling between his overriding conception of duty and finding out more about his origin. I think even my colleague Elliott would concede Odo's arc was strong throughout this series and this is strong character development. Whilst DeYoung is good, I was less impressed by Randy Oglesby as the Miradorn Ah -Kel, who gives a quite monodimensional performance.
That said, the diligence between Croden and Odo is good and the sets, as Jammer says look very impressive. A strong episode, although for me 3 stars only.
Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 5:56am (UTC -5)
Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 5:04am (UTC -5)
Minor nitpick: A tractor beam sure would've been handy when the Miradon chased after Odo.
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 7:42pm (UTC -5)
Additionally, I have seen Cliff De Young do good work in other things, but he lacked charisma in this. Having to carry so much of the story, this failing made it tedious for me. I never felt empathy or pity for him--just annoyance--so much so that I was a little irritated at the end when he survived.
So that's three weak ones in row for me--but certainly not bad enough to quit. I still like most of the characters, though I wish there were a Worf-type character to root for. Someone big and brawny and all man/alien.
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 5:11pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 9, 2013, 2:06pm (UTC -5)
i enjoyed this episode...
i like the interaction between Rom and Quark.. Quark wants to be evil so badly..but he just cant do it.
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 6:17pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 6:18pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 22, 2013, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 1:32am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 8:45am (UTC -5)
Nothing bad really (aside from the falling rock knocking Odo out).
We do learn that Odo isn't a completely by the book guy. It seems he does have a conscience. Which is a good thing. Justice can't be blind.
2.5 stars from me.
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 2:37am (UTC -5)
We get a fairly routine Quark/Odo conversation which exposits the existence of the Miradorn as well as the topic of Odo's uniqueness and giving us a little hint about the Changlings. Very efficient. The teaser cut is a little weird as we are back to the generic ominous music on...Rom carting a tray of drinks. Okay...
Act 1 : ***, 17%
So Quark is doing some negotiating with a pair of twin Miradorn over some sort of Fabergé Egg. A goofball friend of Quark's comes in to hold the most awkward stick-em-up this side of “A Fistful of Datas”. A glass falls, revealing that Odo has assumed its form (best line of the episode is Quark's “Five glasses for four people?!”) and one of the twins is shot and killed.
Apparently the Miradorn are a lot like the Binars, in that the loss of one twin causes some sort of emotional crisis. Odo berates him and Sisko cuts it off, apparently trying to level some sort of balance. Point, commander. Odo demonstrates his penchant for deductive reasoning while Rom makes us wish Moogie had had an abortion (“How dare you suggest my brother set up this robbery?”). Cue facepalm.
Boy, Sisko is sure making a good run of first contacts isn't he? Tosk, the Kobliad, the Waddi, and now the Rakhari. Keep it up, big guy.
The episode has been functional but rather bland up until the last few moments before the commercial break where Croden reveals his knowledge of other Changelings (referring to them by that name no less). Odo's curiosity is naturally piqued.
Act 2 : ***, 17%
Odo and Dax head through the wormhole while Odo continues to pester Quark for more information. While at first, Odo just seems to be doing his job (as usual) just a little bit too well, his last lines to Quark about “other species in the Gamma Quadrant” cue us into his thinking here. He wants to verify Croden's story.
Meanwhile, the remaining Miradorn is causing trouble, restless in his pursuit of Croden to avenge his twin's death.
And we get some more of that signature lazy exposition: “You and I have a great deal in common, Changeling...we are both aliens here, the only ones of our kind. Each of us is alone, isolated, shut-out; others like us only exist in the Gamma Quadrant.” Gee, episode, thanks for doing my thinking for me! At any rate, we do at least get the backstory, clumsy though it is (Cliff deYoung's delivery actually helps quite a bit); the Changelings were persecuted by the solids and fled.
And Odo actually threatens to kill Croden for essentially being a slimeball. This is...um, bold. Odo has been portrayed as a kind of Pluto figure (or Batman for a more modern take), but here he is revealed to have a real passionate streak. He's dangerous actually, and that's intriguing.
Anyway, luckily for Odo (and the plot), Croden just happens to wear one piece of jewellery (which he was allowed ot retain in his cell for dramatic effect) which comes from the “colony of the Changelings” on his world. He offers it to Odo as a sign of, um, un-disassembling.
Act 3 : **.5 , 17%
Dax and Sisko make contact with the “exark” of Croden's planet who is pisses and moans and wants to hear nothing which contradicts his position that Croden be brought home for punishment (psst, I think Jammer calls these Hard Headed Aliens).
Bashir identifies Croden's trinket as a “distant cousin” of Odo's, prompting Odo to confront the prisoner again. Croden offers to take Odo to a hidden colony of Changelings hidden in some sort of Vortex. Well, wouldn't you know it, next thing, Sisko tells Odo to escort him back to his home. Alone. Well, how CONVENIENT. You're not even sending a gold shirt along? Okie dokie.
Act 4 : ***, 17%
There's a decent little bit a bantering in the cockpit (always a reliable setting for dialogue). Croden explains how he became a criminal; his was apparently a sort of Jean Valjean type—he killed only because his family was murdered in front of him by the state.
Meanwhile, the Miradorn twin confronts Quark, while Rom cowers in the corner. …. and if you pay attention, you realise that the Miradorn was physically assaulting Quark in plain view of the promenade with people milling about, apparently not giving a shit. Sucks to be you I guess.
Quark repeats his hacking trick and discovers the coordinates for Odo's destination, giving Quark a death-threat for good measure. There's a nice bit of internal conflict as Quark is seemingly at odds between wanting Odo not to submit to the Miradorn (getting himself killed and keeping Quark's and Rom's illicit plans from surfacing) and not wanting Odo to actually die.
So the Miradorn leaves and heads through the wormhole after Croden. Tractor beam, maybe? Oh well.
For some reason, the computer decides to explain the effect of weapons fire on the runabout rather than just letting Odo know that there is weapons fire. Heh... Odo hands over the controls to Croden who gets them through the Vortex (which looks suspiciously like the nebula from BoBW). He decides to land on the colony and apparently introduce Odo to his people. That's pretty exciting! How about a little god damned music to underscore that feeling episode?
Act 5 : **.5, 17%
Croden's lie is exposed and he reveals his “only reason for living”—his only remaining daughter, who is promptly awoken from stasis. In a welcome subtle bit, Odo watches Croden reunited with his kin, a dream he was foolish enough to hope for himself on this voyage.
Odo is knocked out by a rock and—what??? C'mon really? He doesn't have organs or a nervous system. How does a rock hitting him in the “head” knock him out? And this in an episode all about the origins of shape-shifters. Yeesh.
And we get a light techno-babble solution which allows the runabout to evade the pursuing Miradorn involving, of course, exploding nebular—eh, vortexual?--gas.
So Croden asks Odo to adopt his daughter, which is enough to convince Odo to let the two of them escape together on a passing Vulcan vessel.
The final shot with Odo chatting with his “cousin” is corny, but Auberjonois just manages to make it work with a subdued and defeated delivery.
Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%
The Changeling backstory is neat stuff and Odo carries the episode well. The guest acting is all pretty lukewarm, but passable. The problem with this episode is it's very lean—there's just not really enough story to get us where we're going. Rather than giving us a real B plot or at least some sensuous scene painting, we get this bit with the Miradorn (which it seems is never really resolved). The whole story could have been written without this gratuitous chase scene at the end and I think it would have been better for them to land on the “colony” because of Odo's insistence and Croden's manipulations rather than because they were fleeing for their lives. Overall, the word is “passable.”
Final Score : *** (just barely)
Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 8:35am (UTC -5)
"Odo is knocked out by a rock and—what??? C'mon really? He doesn't have organs or a nervous system. How does a rock hitting him in the “head” knock him out? And this in an episode all about the origins of shape-shifters. Yeesh."
LOL! I swear the episode loses half a star JUST for that, right?
Other than that I'm glad you liked this episode (for a S1 outing). It's one of the ones I like best from S1. Rene is excellent in it.
Fri, Dec 19, 2014, 10:30pm (UTC -5)
This was a much stronger episode than the previous Odo-centric outing, and definitely one of my favorites so far. Rene Auberjonois is just so good that even the goofier aspects of this one aren’t particularly notable. It helps that Croden is one of the most compelling guest stars we’ve seen so far, and that nearly every interaction he has with Odo makes for an interesting dynamic. “Odo’s origins” hadn’t been something I was hyper-concerned with before this point despite a few past references, but this episode made me believe that the storyline is potentially pretty fascinating.
- I like that the wormhole is getting a bit more play.
- Again, everything Odo. The straight-talking, humorless and gruff security chief must trade words with a man whose passion seems to be dissembling wordplay. I like how Auberjonois plays his restraint; you can tell there’s a part of Odo that would like nothing more than to follow Croden to the changeling enclave, but he never wavers in his duty. But his form of justice is tempered with honor and even a certain amount of benevolence, as we see from his later interactions with Croden and the girl (that smile!). While actually speaking to the crystal at the end was a bit of a stretch, I like the notion that it’s Odo’s cousin of sorts, and I hope it will make return appearances in future episodes dealing with Odo’s longing for a home.
- Speaking of that: I find it really interesting that Odo is both completely confident in his place on DS9 and extremely drawn to the notion of finding more changelings.
- Croden is an excellent character. Half of what he says is false and he manipulates Odo easily, but ends up being a sympathetic character possessed of basic decency despite all that. He’s morally grey and very ambiguous, and thus a type of character that the show has had luck with before (I’m thinking Garak and Kira’s old comrade from “Past Prologue”).
- Quark and Odo were fine in this episode, (“I’m the man behind the bar!”) but I actually think Quark has been slightly overused now at the expense of some other characters. I mean, he was only significant in the early portion of this one, but the last two episodes were pretty Quark-centric and we haven’t seen much of anyone else recently. I do like how the show always stops short of making him completely amoral (notice that he doesn’t really embrace the idea of Ah-Kel killing Odo). Unlike Rom, who’s…kind of murder happy isn’t he? There’s something a little disturbing about that guy because he lacks both Quark’s cleverness and his humanity.
- The Miradorn are interesting in theory, but this wasn’t the right episode for them. Didn’t have time to flesh out the twins-concept, and so Ah-Kel becomes just another bad guy.
Wed, Jan 21, 2015, 7:15am (UTC -5)
Then, it may have been a more compelling episode without having Croden's people believing in a very strange idea of justice (killing your family to punish you!), and without having Croden so 100% innocent (although we only find out about that at the end of the episode). Nevertheless, I enjoyed the episode.
Also, they should certainly exile Quark, he appears to be at the centre of every single mess that happens on DS9, doesn't he? :--)
Wed, Feb 18, 2015, 12:01am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 10:21am (UTC -5)
Croden plays on Odo's feelings quite well -- by making himself out to be a persecuted prisoner and describing the way the changelings were persecuted, he essentially casts him as another person like Odo's people, even on his own planet. That his stories may have some background in myths and legends makes sense with later revelations; the Founders claim that they were persecuted before they decided to become conquering gods. Croden is playing Odo here, but it does seem plausible that Croden's life of crime did start the way he claims it did, as a nonviolent political dissident whose family was slaughtered in front of him. Of course, he might be lying. Odo's suspension of his usual absolute dedication to justice is a step toward his recognizing that things aren't as black and white as he wants, in particular the recognition of the mitigating factors in Croden's life, and that is mostly a good thing. On the other hand, there is some indication he lets Croden go because Croden has been able to convince Odo that the two of them are alike, and indeed that Croden might be like those mysterious changelings from long ago, an impression which may have lasted until even after Croden's stories about the changelings were revealed to be mostly BS. Personal feelings gradually wear down Odo's absolutist moral code, which renders him less rigid (good) but also increasingly willing to put personal feelings far above other ethical concerns (bad), and some of that ambiguity is here.
I guess I do find Croden's heel-face turn at the episode's end a little unconvincing. When he finds his daughter, he really does seem to become a different character, and while I get some of that (he is going to behave differently when back with his daughter, and around her), to some extent the depiction of him as mostly a man of conscience who Did What He Had To Do to get back to his daughter doesn't *quite* settle with exactly how cavalier he was about killing the Miradorn earlier in the episode. I also think that Quark is pretty blase about a guy dying because of his negotiation tactic/trick, but then I'm still not quite sure how to read Quark's attitude about, you know, people dying because of him. Just business, I guess? The chase sequences are okay but not stunning. I think overall this is a strong episode with some significant weaknesses. 3 stars from me.
Thu, Oct 22, 2015, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
The B-story of the Miradorn pursuit is less well developed but does give us a bit of action. And as noted above the SFX are exceptionally good. 3 stars.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 9:41am (UTC -5)
That being said, the rest of the episode works remarkably well - good performances from just about everybody, a nice action subplot with the Miradorn intent on revenge and the revelation that it was all to save Croden's daughter (even though it ultimately destroys any prospects of learning about Odo's backstory) all add nicely to the mix.
But, the biggest plus for me was the humanizing of Odo. After watching him act like a total ass (and outright fascist) for a lot of episodes, I really enjoyed watching him set aside his sense of order and release Croden and his daughter to the Vulcans. It shows that while he does have an exaggerated sense of duty and order, it's ultimately trumped by his sense of justice and compassion. It was a welcome change.
Thu, Feb 25, 2016, 10:31am (UTC -5)
I believe this episode is better when watched for a second time. Initially, early in the episode, I thought Cliff DeYoung was just going through the motions, and was not really into it. But... after seeing it in its entirety, I realized he was playing Croden flawlessly, in my humble opinion. Croden had been nearly totally defeated. He had nearly nothing left to live for. He was spent, and just putting one foot in front of another was nearly more than he could bear. Everything he had was destroyed, and nearly all of his family was dead. His only reason for living is the daughter we see at the end, which is why I put "nearly" in the descriptions above. I think DeYoung really pulled that off, playing someone who was completely devastated.
Anyway, those were my thoughts. :)
Mon, Aug 22, 2016, 3:39pm (UTC -5)
I know it's nice that Odo overcame his principles and let the poor man and his daughter escape, but come on, he didn't even question the guy's backstory even after Croden repeatedly lied to everyone. Croden claims that his homeworld unjustly murdered his family but no one actually verifies any of this. Sisko and Dax also just talk to the first person that contacts them back from Croden's homeworld and just assume he actually has actual authority.
Mon, Aug 22, 2016, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
Also that Miradorn ship was destroyed in the vortex? So everyone on board died? No one went back to check to see if they were OK? I know it's their own fault, but no one actually had proof they committed any crimes (aside from trying to destroy a Federation ship to avenge someone's murder).
Why should Croden get off scott-free after he murdered someone like that?
Sat, Aug 27, 2016, 10:02am (UTC -5)
So far, Odo is probably my favourite DS9 character. I was really looking forward to this episode giving us some of his backstory and developing his character further.
The small amount of character building this episode does provide, is offset for me by the sheer boredom of it all. I couldn't have cared less about Croden or what happens to him, even after he found his daughter. I was actively hoping that Odo didn't get burdened with having to look after her for the rest of the series and the one positive is that he doesn't (thank you Vulcans!).
If this is some of the 'best' DS9 has to offer, I'm going to have a real struggle sitting through the rest of it.
Sat, Aug 27, 2016, 10:18am (UTC -5)
"If this is some of the 'best' DS9 has to offer, I'm going to have a real struggle sitting through the rest of it."
It's not. DS9 is my favorite Trek series, and I find "Vortex" boring as well. The Miradorn part of the episode was frankly a waste of time and never developed, most of Croden's lies likewise. The ending gives me pause and it's supposed to be important for Odo as a step forward in his view of the law as being the only thing that matters, but mostly I find the dialogue and content in it tedious. I'd call it one of the worst episodes of S1, honestly, although it doesn't hold a candle to "Move Along Home."
Fri, Jan 6, 2017, 11:47pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 6, 2017, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
Hes a shapeshifter!!
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 8, 2017, 11:55am (UTC -5)
Or, if the mini changeling is sentient and intelligent and forced to live its life as a locket, that seems to be a violation.
Thu, Feb 8, 2018, 5:29pm (UTC -5)
Croden's chattiness was annoying -- he's like the reluctant criminal, or forced into being one. For somebody who has been a fugitive, I guess he can't trust anybody and he was hard to read -- is he lying or telling the truth. So his earlier dialog and disposition in the episode was definitely annoying. Odo's the consummate policeman but he, understandably, sees Croden as a way to finding out more about his race -- interesting dynamic here.
Also an interesting twist with this new Gamma Quadrant Miradorn species that they exist as 2 separate individuals but are 2 parts of some kind of whole. Just seems like a good enough excuse for one of them to seek revenge at all cost. Ah-Kel turns out to be decent enough villain. The action scenes were ok -- there always seems to be some kind of nebula nearby when there's a pursuit going on. Of course this chase/action scene might remind one of "The Wrath of Khan" -- although it pales by comparison.
If Odo's sense of justice is so strong, why does he let Croden and his daughter go? Following justice will lead to some difficult situations (like for Croden's daughter) -- and we just have to assume that his lie will work and the folks on Croden's planet looking to get their hands on him will just have to accept it. Yes, Odo gets the sense that other Changelings are out there thanks to Croden, but I say he has a job to do as a professional and not just take the situation in his own hands.
Not quite good enough for 3 stars but it's a strong 2.5 stars for me -- Odo has a tough outer shell but we start to see a different side of him, which is nice. Croden brings it out with a better performance in the latter part of the episode. I suppose there are some touching/nice moments here but it's not tremendously powerful stuff.
Tue, Jul 24, 2018, 6:31pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Nov 8, 2018, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
3 stars for "Vortex" -- will prove to be a prophetic episode and lays a seed for Odo's longing to find his people while he lives in loneliness. Sometimes it takes an odd/misunderstood character like Croden to show Odo something "human" and become an inflection point for him.
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 8:36pm (UTC -5)
Ah, interesting start. That Croden really knows how to get to Odo.
Liking it so far.
The "Starship Rio Grande." A suitable name for a Starship crossing the border.
Actor playing Croden doing a good job.
Odo, like the now-alone Miradorn twin, doesn't really feel complete. Lots of comments about home, people out of place, going home, going to a new place (Rio Grande!), the central need for relationships.
So, Quark has completely forgotten Rom tried to kill him? What's with Quark's ability to so easily bypass the Computer's security? I'm guessing Odo might get on to him someday.
Great character growth for Odo, hints at further goodness to come.
I hope you have enjoyed my commentary - "but don't thank me, I already regret it. "*
*A great line, repeated twice.
Sun, Dec 9, 2018, 5:53am (UTC -5)
Also I don't think that Odo thinks someone killing someone who has broken into their home and killed their family members and is attempting to kill them is a "murderer", which is the other part of why he lets him go (I don't believe he would let an actual murderer go just for helping him, but I'm sure he would have still taken his daughter to safety). His problem was not believing the story of innocent self defence, because Croden really was a liar and Odo literally watched him break the law and kill someone, but after he asked Odo to take his daughter he started telling the truth and had no more reason to lie. I think Odo himself doesn't know how much he was swayed by either being rescued or the info & necklace, which is interesting.
I really liked this episode. I've started watching DS9 for the first time and much of the writing is atrocious (along with the weird insistence on unnecessary lingering close ups of people not-actually-reacting, and the awful scoring, and the odd editing choices that have left me multiple times thinking I must have missed part of the episode) but this one stands out as genuinely good.
I've heard a lot of early DS9 story threads were abandoned, but I'm hoping the necklace stays important to Odo until he finds out more.
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 10:58pm (UTC -5)
It's amazing how far we've come. I unfortunately wasn't around in 93, so to see this episode's effects for the first time, especially after being spoiled by Star Trek: Discovery, took me out of it a little, which I don't hold against the show, of course. In all honesty, I wish I could have seen these effects back when they were really impressive. I feel like I missed out on something.
Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 6:03am (UTC -5)
Sat, Feb 6, 2021, 10:12am (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 19, 2021, 11:45am (UTC -5)
Sun, Dec 26, 2021, 2:36am (UTC -5)
Quite well done in parts, heavy handed melodrama in other parts. So 2.5 stars.
Mon, Mar 21, 2022, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
I love that Odo, the pragmatist, who believes justice comes from the law, realizing that perhaps that is not that case. We also learn just enough about Odo's people to tantalize us and make us want more, but not so much that the writers back themselves into a corner. They can still take the story in any direction they want. A sign for sure that the DS9 writers are much more forward thinking than other ST writers.
Sun, May 21, 2023, 3:39pm (UTC -5)
A nice little touch from the director.
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